An Interview with Dave Wolff on Broadband in the Adirondacks

AdkAction Board Chair and tireless “broadband-for-all” advocate, Dave Wolff, provides leadership in the Adirondacks by hosting a monthly community forum to connect local leaders, internet service providers, and the New NY Broadband Office.  

Find answers to your burning questions about broadband in the Adirondacks here!

Q: Hi Dave, can you help us understand the major goals of the New NY Broadband Office?

A: I’d be glad to.  The primary goal of the New NY Broadband Office is to get universal access to broadband to every New Yorker by 2018.  Broadband speeds are defined to be at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) in most places, and 25 Mbps (download) in the most remote, unserved parts of the State.  (Note that 25 Mbps is the federal minimum standard for high-speed.)

Q: Is it likely that the state’s goals will be achieved for universal access on time and within budget?

A: It is a wonderful goal and  the state is midway thru allocation of $500 million in state funding (to be matched by private investments) to support the expansion of high-speed broadband access in the state. Providers will have the ability to ask for a one year extension to complete projects approved by the state, so the real end date is year-end 2019.

In addition, the new company (Spectrum) formed from the merger of Time Warner and Charter has committed to upgrading all its over 2 million customers in NYS to speeds of 100 Mbps by the end of 2018 and to 300 Mbps by the end of 2019.  At this point in the rollout (roughly half way) of the New NY Broadband Program, the state says that 98% of the households in the state will have access to high-speed broadband. However, the last 2% of coverage will be the most expensive and hardest to accomplish.  The state will probably need additional funding to achieve its goal of 100% access to high-speed broadband.

Note:  In May, 2016, Strategic Networks Group, a world leader in broadband econometrics, ranked New York State number one in the nation for broadband activity and investment.

Q: What would you tell someone in the Park who doesn’t have broadband access now and has been waiting for years to get connected?  Can help them?

A: I’d recommend that anyone in that situation reaches out to their town and county officials.  Applications for the third, and probably the last round, of grants via the New NYS Broadband Program ends on August 15.  We are working with these officials across Northern NY to make sure they actively engage with providers to ensure that the providers submit grant requests to cover as many un-served and under-served people as possible in their towns and counties.  Worst case, contact us at [email protected] with your situation, and we will see what we can do to help!

Q: Will broadband transform our quality of life in the Adirondacks? How?

A: Access to broadband and the Internet can help improve quality of life in a variety of ways.  Older Adults overcome the problems of physical isolation, inadequate transportation, and  harsh winters encountered in the Adirondacks.  From the AARP,  access to the Internet can support the needs and ambitions of older adults in five broad, interrelated impact areas:

  1. Personal fulfillment
  2. Health preservation
  3. Social connectedness
  4. Functional capability and activity
  5. Caregiver support

Broadband improvements will also help businesses overcome the challenges faced in the Adirondacks:  small customer bases, high advertising costs, and sometimes a failing local economy. In today’s world, many customers are online and with an online presence through a company website or social media efforts, rural businesses can grow their brand awareness and increase leads.  Internet marketing can be significantly cheaper than print, television or radio advertising. It is also proven to reach more people faster. And with broadband access, local businesses have the opportunity to compete in regional, national and even world-wide markets.

Young Adults find good economic opportunity — that is, good paying jobs based on the new digital economy.  For example, there are web programming jobs available that allow one to live and work in the Adirondacks. Students access learning tools equal to those provided in urban settings. Students can have access to higher level curriculum, to a larger selection of foreign languages and connect with students around the world.

Finally, seasonal residents stay longer or even to move to the Park and tele-commute.  Enabling people to “work where they play”.

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